Sunday, February 24, 2013

Short Story Ebook Release

It's a short post today just to let ya know that I've got a short story on Kindle and Nook now. A little under 10,000 words, Ordinary Folk released this weekend. It's a werewolf story with a twist.

Here's the description:

Janey’s symptoms are getting stronger, and stranger. Nothing her doctor and Dawson say can get the idea out of her head: It’s all tied to the full moon. She knows they think she’s being irrational, but she feels the connection in a way she can’t even begin to explain.

She needs answers, and the only way she can think to get them is to visit the town where her parents grew up. But the visit is nothing like she expects…the odd looks, the whispers behind her back. And the old man who seems to know her secrets. Is there something in this tiny town’s history—and Janey’s—that’s not so ordinary?

Ordinary Folk was originally published in the Dark Heroes anthology by Pill Hill Press (which sadly has recently shut its doors).

The awesome cover art was done by a talented teen photographer named Alexa Williams. You can see more of her work on her Dallas Valley Photography Facebook page.

You can find Ordinary Folk on Amazon and B& for 99 cents.

PS--if you read it, I'd much appreciate a review :).

Monday, February 18, 2013

No Ambushes Here

The Angler Fish--one of nature's best ambushers.
"Quit trying to ambush your audience with the Gospel. Either proclaim your work's genre loud and proud or write something else."

I can't take credit for those words. They are a quote from a book review on Amazon by a writer friend, Katherine Coble. They are wise words, I believe. And words that have inspired this blog post--a post that will look at them from more than one angle.

Something I have proclaimed for a long time is that Christian fiction isn't just written by Christians, it's written for Christians. As Jeff Gerke has said time and again:

So, who is the market for Christian books? By and large, it is white, American, Evangelical women of child-bearing, child-raising, or empty nest years. This is the demographic that walks into Christian bookstores and the Christianity section in secular bookstores.

You see, that is where Christian books are sold. And generally, only Christians enter Christian bookstores or the Christian ghetto section of bookstores like B&N. Yes, I know, they are also sold online through Amazon and such, but they're still segmented. They're sold on exclusively Christian websites like Or they're sold on Amazon under the label of "Christian fiction."

And they ought to be. That, I believe, is one thing Katherine meant by her remark up there. If you are writing Christian fiction, label it as such. For one, the demographic above is searching for that and often won't pick up your book if it's not labeled. And two, the ones who don't want those kinds of books, well, don't want them and if you don't label then you're not being honest.

Oh, yes...I forgot. There's the evangelism card. Putting Jesus out there in your book to reach the unsaved, which means putting Christian content into a book that slickly doesn't include any hint to that content in the description. Right. Sigh.

True evangelism through fiction may happen here and there, and if you are one of those lucky few authors who actually manages to reach an unsaved soul with a Christian novel, then I accede to your amazingness. I am not being sarcastic--I mean it. That is truly awesome! It's just that the numbers show that your REAL audience is vastly made up of people who don't need that message and who are only going to pick up your book if it's labeled "Christian fiction."

Go find some books that are overtly Christian but were picked up by non-Christian readers who didn't know. Even if it was the reader's own fault for not paying attention to the labels (which is another problem entirely), there is one commonality: anger. Why has this author tricked me? Why have I picked up a book I thought was a "suspense" only to get preached at? To be suckered into reading a cheesy altar call?

You see? That's why Katherine used words like "ambush" and "loud and proud." If you write sneaky-sneak Christianity, who are you fooling? Are the readers who find your book going to come to your site and see no sign of your Christianity because you have to hide it out of fear of scaring them off?

The other side of the coin: Christians who write stuff that's not so Christian.

That is actually what popped into my head when I read Katherine's words. Because that's me!

You see, I don't hide the fact that I'm a Christian. Any amount of searching on this site will yield proof of that. Search my Facebook feed, and you'll find evidence. Am I preachy? I don't think a single one of my friends would call me that. It's very much *who* I am, not what I spout.

Which is why I have to be careful not to ambush my readers, and why I need to be loud and proud on both the fact that I am, personally, a Christian. And my writing, generally, is not. There are themes, but all fiction has themes. And I do have exactly one overtly Christian short story--which was published in an online magazine that publishes--get this--Christian short stories. Yeah, I know. Imagine the logic.

I'm not ashamed of my faith. (I'm sometimes ashamed of the fact that there are those who supposedly share my faith and use it to hurt others, but again, a-whole-nother topic there.) And I'm not going to try and "sneak" it in. But I'm not going to bash you over the head with it either. I try to be Christian and write from my heart, period.

I'm also not ashamed of the non-Christian-ness of most of my writing. I write fantasy, which includes magic and mythical creatures. I write horror, which includes blood and spookiness and down-right meanness, and is often seen as something Christians just don't do.

Again, don't "ambush your audience." And, "Either proclaim your work's genre loud and proud or write something else."

So there you have it. I'm a Christian. ME! Yes, I'm a Christian! But I don't often write Christian-y stuff. You will find magic and mystery, death and vampires, and mean little bully-killing girls in my writing. No surprises, folks. No ambushes here.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Shame On Me

Yeah, I know what you're thinking. "Slacker." Nine days with no post! Shame on me.

This week has been crazy. Getting caught up on my son's schoolwork. Extra extra-curricular classes, like a science class that requires us to drive out to the middle of nowhere, and Beastie 2's cupcake decorating class at which I forgot to take pictures. Shame on me again.

Also, a dear, sweet man in my Sunday School class passed away this week, and we attended his memorial service yesterday. A sad way to start off Valentine's Day, but I know he was smiling in Heaven listening to all the funny/silly stories being told about him. He was that kind of guy. Our class is going to feel his absence strongly.

But there's good news, too. My Work In Progress is so close to be done! Well,  first draft. Next is editing. Lots and lots and lots of editing. But I'm hoping to have it ready to shop to agents by mid-year. Yay!

Other than that, not much to report. So I will leave you with a day-after-Valentine's-Day limerick. We all know Twilight was the big romance story of the century....
She stared o’er the corpse, looking startled.
Its flesh curled from bone, burned to charcoal.
She said, book in hand,
“I don’t understand…
Shouldn’t the sun make him sparkle?”
Oh, shame on me again....

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Jerks Come in Every Market

When I was in college, my Sociology professor said, "You stop being prejudiced when you realize jerks come in every color." That statement has stuck with me all these years. I'm not sure everyone fully understands it when I quote it, and I'm pretty sure it doesn't sink as deep with a lot of people as it did with me.

What that statement means is:

We tend to overcompensate when we feel prejudice. God forbid we think a black person is mean or dishonest--that might be racist. But let's face it, some black people are mean and dishonest. So are some white people. Jerks come in every color. Once you recognize that, you can start judging people based on their behavior, not their skin color.

This holds true for religious and political demographics as well. Having friends who are both atheists and Christians, both Republicans and Democrats, I have noticed that the most vocal are the ones that are most opposed and offended by the other group. I remember posting on Facebook that my one take-away from the election experience is that people groups judge each other by their extremists.

All that said, I'm going to switch topics a bit. Sorta. And in a way that is probably going to have my words misconstrued. I'm going to be accused of calling Jerry Jenkins a jerk. I'm not, I promise. But here goes....

Jerry Jenkins recently announced that his company, Christian Writers Guild, will be opening a publishing house, but it will run rather differently from traditional publishing. It's only being sorta-kinda called self-publishing by Jenkins/CWG. Essentially, a writer pays nearly $10,000 for a six month writing course and then will receive for "free" a publishing package.


First of all, $10,000 for both a six month course AND a self-publishing package is on the high side. A writer in a Yahoo loop I belong to quoted Jenkins as saying, "Anything with that kind of a price tag will appeal to only a certain market segment. In fact, we'll vet all applicants and cheerfully steer many to other, lower cost suppliers before we would hurt them financially. I would not advise anyone to stretch beyond their means for services they can find elsewhere for less." (Emphasis mine, and yes, this is second-hand, and I cannot directly verify the accuracy, but I do trust my source.)

That quote tells me he's fully aware that he's over-charging. He's trying to "appeal" to a certain market segment. I'd like to know what that segment is. My guess: the segment willing to pay $10,000 to say they were published by Jerry Jenkins.

So here's the connection. We judge by our extremists. Our extremists are all too often the jerks. Our extremist jerks end up inadvertently becoming our group representatives in other groups' minds. So the *real* representatives and leaders in our groups need to tread extra-carefully to balance that out.

Jerry Jenkins is a Christian fiction icon. He and his company, CWG, are seen as one of the biggest examples of the Christian fiction industry. In a way, he represents the CBA to many people, both inside and outside the Christian market. The idea that he is charging more for supposedly better quality and supposed opportunity for new Christian writers is not going to matter. The secular world sees it as a joke. Just check out this post on Writer Beware.

The head of any company becomes personally held accountable for that company, especially when that person's name is as big as the company itself. Walt Disney knew that. Sam Walton knew that. Jerry Jenkins ought to know that, and I believe he does.

What is happening now is Jerry Jenkins putting his name on this kind of practice is like him stepping up and saying, "This is how we do things in the CBA. This is what Christian writing is all about. Not letting talented writers land real traditional contracts, so they are forced to come to me and pay through the nose for what they want."

It may have truly started as a way for him to meet a need in the CBA. I am not judging Jenkins' character. I know nothing about him. But the only exposure I've had to CWG left me sick to my stomach. For a year, they joined forces with my main writers group, Word Weavers, which is a non-profit group. Things were supposed to be separate--WW members were not required to join CWG, and vice versa, but supposedly got discounts going either way. Discounts on over-priced webinars, the solicitations for which filled my inbox on a regular basis, leading me to drop my WW membership until WW and CWG parted ways.

So you have to see where I'm coming from on this. I'm not personally attacking Jenkins. I am not trying to spread gossip about him. I am merely evaluating a service offered by him and his company, and seeing things that don't add up. It's true that no one is being forced to choose this path he has laid out. But I know so many will choose it, including a lot of people that can't really afford it.

So, while I'm not calling Jerry Jenkins a jerk, the secular publishing world is, and Christian writers are being made out once again to be naive and gullible.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Monster Trucks, a Geek Perspective

A couple of nights ago, my family, which did in fact include me, went to the Monster Jam. That, for those of ya'll who don't know, is a monster truck rally where monster trucks race and jump ramps and drive over things like old cars and crush them. (At this one they crushed a couple of RV's. With our travel trailer still torn apart as my husband battles leak damage, I can't tell you how cathartic it was to watch that!)

Monster Jam is a quintessential redneck pastime, which means there was a lot of camouflage clothing and denim, and lots of baseball caps and cowboy boots. It also meant a lot of really nice people and much hooting and hollering :).

I can't say I was jumping for joy over the idea of going to this. Other than the stunt show at Disney's Hollywood Studios (which is just awesome cool), I've been to exactly one car-related event. Stock car races. Six. Hours. of old cars circling a dirt track. I swore I'd never do anything like that again. My husband knows the mere mention of the event is enough to put daggers into my stare.

Fortunately, Monster Jam is different. There's this whole freestyle portion, which is where the crushing and such comes in. It starts off, though, with just racing. The racing part wasn't too exciting for me, but the trucks are pretty dang cool. I would pick the design/name I liked from each pair and root for them. There were trucks like:

El Toro Loco, which actually blew smoke out its nose:

Grave Digger, which seemed to be the crowd's favorite:

But my geek side took over and I found myself rooting for trucks like The Crusader. What fantasy fan can resist a knight and sword?

 My favorite of the night, though, was Wolverine!

Which got me thinking about all the possibilities for Monster Truck designs.

I found on the official Monster Jam website that there are a lot of superhero trucks, like Hulk, Superman, and (swoon) Thor! Even a Zombie and a Dragon's Breath

But what I'd really love to see are some majorly tricked-out geek-themed trucks. Like the Star Ship Enterprise. And the TARDIS. How about a Dalek Monster Truck? 

Couldn't resist--I googled those ideas and came up with nothing, but I did find: 

Or maybe some fantasy creatures like gargoyles or werewolves.

Of course, the ultimate would be Cthulhu. That's a Monster Jam I'd be really excited about!

So, how about you? If you were designing a geek-themed monster truck, what would it be?